Newfoundland and Labrador reports fifth COVID-19-related death, eight new cases

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A man over the age of 70 is the fifth person to die in Newfoundland and Labrador because of COVID-19, health officials said Wednesday.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announced his death during an emotional public health briefing. While reminding residents that someday the pandemic will be over, Fitzgerald teared up and had to take a moment before she could continue.

"One day we will be able to gather together and hug our friends and family," she said, her voice breaking. "Hold fast, Newfoundland and Labrador."

Fitzgerald reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all in the eastern health region of the province, which includes the capital, St. John's — where an outbreak began several weeks ago. Officials have said the outbreak was caused by the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.

Despite low case numbers over the past few days, Newfoundland and Labrador remains under lockdown and Fitzgerald said residents must stay on guard. There are 345 active reported infections in the province and six people are in hospital with the disease, she said.

Health Minister John Haggie confirmed that two patients of a St. John's hospital have been diagnosed with COVID-19, adding that it's not clear how they contracted the virus. "There is no outbreak," he said about the hospital.

Haggie said health officials expect regular shipments from Pfizer to resume, including weekly shipments of 6,000 doses. He said the second and third phase of the province's vaccination plan will be released Friday, adding that officials are ready to ramp up vaccinations as soon as they have enough of the vaccine to do it.

Pfizer, he said, has also promised an extra 80,000 doses in March and another 249,000 doses by the end of May.

"Those last two quantities, we have not seen hide nor hair of as yet," Haggie told reporters. "But given the comments on the national scale, we're hopeful and optimistic that we may see some or all of that, in which case we have a plan to ramp up vaccination."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press